Agency Lessons: What is NA?

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

I was at UtopiaCon last week (which is why you got zero of the blog posts I promised myself I would pre-schedule, sigh). I had a ton of fantastic conversations about writing and publishing and books and whee! It was a whirlwind for sure. But I had an epiphany about one of the many subjects of debate while on my drive home and I wanted to share it with you guys.

NA isn't new anymore. Well, It's a baby in the grand scheme of publishing, but with the speed things move around here it's already old news. Editors are not regularly requesting it and Amazon gave it its own category, so it's a thing for sure.

The question I hear most is, what thing is it?

Some people call it coming of age, but that's also what we call YA. Others say it's college books, but that leaves out a whole group of people who are just graduated and still clueless. Still others claim it's YA with sex, but even that misses the mark considering the boundaries YA has been pushing in recent years.

So this is what I came up with.
NA is Friends.

They don't have their lives together, even if they have a degree and a job. Those jobs keep changing and most of them have no idea what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Careers are still being decided.

Love lives are like a revolving door at Macy's. Not that they aren't all looking for that special someone. They just haven't found them. Or they did find them and then did something stupid when they were "on a break" and ruined it completely. For most of the Friends characters, they are still learning who they are so then they can figure out who they want to love.

While most of them have a job of some kind, money isn't flowing in through the unrealistically large apartment windows. Some come from a silver spoon and are learning how to make it. Others know exactly what hard work is. Still others are willing to make sacrifices in order to pursue their dreams. While the cast is lacking in ethnic diversity (keep that in mind while writing NA), it does a great job of showing people from many different upbringings.

In Friends, life is still about deciding who you are and making mistakes along the way. And that's the essence of NA.

As soon as the characters got their act together, got married, settled down to have kids and found their life's calling, the show ended. It wasn't new adult anymore. The characters were now fully minted adults. And as viewers we could see that shift happening. That doesn't mean the end of your NA needs to show your characters becoming adults. It means that's where the line is. It's a little blurry and it can look different on different characters, but there is definitely a line.